Friday, March 13, 2015

TV Review - The Odd Couple

As many of you (at least the Americans) know, CBS recently revived the 1970s TV show The Odd Couple. The show was based on the 1968 Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau movie, which was based on the 1965 stage play written by Neil Simon. It aired on ABC for five seasons and spurred two previous resurrections in the late 70s and early 80s. It's also used as the butt of nearly every "opposites attract" joke that's been made since 1965.

If you're unfamiliar with it, however, the show revolves around two main characters, Felix Unger (played by Thomas Lennon in the 2015 remake) and Oscar Madison (played by Matthew Perry). In the pilot episode, Felix--an obsessive neatnick who's on his way to getting a divorce--comes to live in Oscar's apartment, which--like the man himself--is a pig sty. Oscar is a playboy sports talk show host whose wife also left him. Together, the two unlikely friends try to learn to live without them... and with each other.

I have to admit that I never watched the original film, and if I say I've seen two episodes of the 70s show, I might be exaggerating. However, my parents were fans, and I've heard references to Felix and Oscar for most of my life, so I had a pretty good idea of what I was getting into when I sat down to watch the pilot a few weeks ago. But this does mean I won't be comparing it to the originals in this review.

I was surprised when I heard Matthew Perry was going to be cast as Oscar. To me, he makes more sense as a Felix. Chandler, his character from Friends, had some quirks that I could easily have seen allowing him to make the transition. However, when I found out that Thomas Lennon, whose most recent TV credit was Sean Hayes' boss on the short-lived Sean Saves the World, was going to be Felix, it suddenly all made sense. Lennon does a great job with the minute mannerisms necessary to make Felix obsessive but not obnoxiously so. There's so much he gets right in the little details. Sometimes I want to smack him, but most of the time I just want to hug him.

Perry does a better job in the role of Oscar than I expected. He yells a little much for my taste, but I'm told that's pretty typical of Oscar from Odd Couples past. But he straddles the line between abrasive and just easily frustrated pretty well, and there are some genuinely warm scenes between him and Lennon that really tie the show together.

The secondary characters--Oscar's friends, Roy and Teddy; his assistant, Dani; and his neighbors and romantic interests, Emily and Casey--have developed nicely over the three episodes that have aired so far. They enhance the show's chemistry, and I'm curious to find out more about them as the series airs, but they don't take away from the main focus.

So far the plot has been pretty focused on Oscar helping Felix get over his ex-wife. Since the series is so new, this is pretty appropriate, but I'm looking forward to a time when that's not quite so front-and-center. There's plenty of potential there.

All in all, I've been pleased with this show so far. I wouldn't yet list it as one of my favorite sitcoms, but I enjoy it when I'm watching it, and I look forward to seeing what happens next.

The Odd Couple airs at 8:30 on Thursdays on CBS.

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